PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Aroostook Centre Mall is losing a major retailer later this year with Tuesday’s announcement that Sears, including the auto center, will close its doors in mid-October.
The 58 employees at the Presque Isle store will have the opportunity to apply for positions at other Sears and Kmart stores, said Howard Riefs, Sears Holdings director of corporate communications. Kmart is owned by Sears Holdings.
No other Sears stores in Maine are closing, Riefs said by phone late in the day. The Kmart store at the Aroostook Center Mall is not affected by the move and will remain open, he added.
“Store closures are part of a series of actions we’re taking to reduce on-going expenses, adjust our asset base and accelerate the transformation of our business model,” Riefs said in an email late Tuesday afternoon.
“This is a very sad day,” Donella Leavitt, the Presque Isle Sears store manager, said Tuesday. “We have very hardworking, loyal associates [and] they are taking it very hard.”
Leavitt said that 80 employees would be affected by the store closing, which was announced during a store meeting Tuesday morning. Riefs maintained that the correct number of affected employees was 58.
No prior indication was given that the store was slated for closing, Leavitt said, adding that Sears has had a presence in Presque Isle since the first store was built on Main Street in 1948. The store would have celebrated its 20th anniversary in the Aroostook Center Mall this year, she said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Patty Crooks, mall manager, had no comment on the closing or what it would mean to the mall.
The two remaining Aroostook County Sears stores, in Fort Kent and Houlton, are independently owned.
“It is always a tragedy when 80 people lose their jobs,” Alan Susee, owner of Sears Hometown in Fort Kent, said Tuesday afternoon. “I think this is a sign of changing trends that the rest of the country has seen for some time in that the mall is no longer a destination for Americans.”
Houlton store owner Bart Dunn declined to comment on Tuesday.
Over the last calendar year, 100 Sears and Kmart stores around the country have closed, Riefs said.
“We greatly value our relations with our customers and hope to be able to serve them in other stores or online,” he added.
The Presque Isle store will begin its liquidation sale July 26, according to Reifs’ email.